Stratospheric balloons deliver internet to Puerto Rico

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"Together with local technology partners, SES Networks and X are providing reliable high-performance connectivity to Puerto Ricans whose lives have been devastated by hurricane Maria and who have limited means of communication".

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission this month accepted application of Alphabet to offer emergency cellular facility to Puerto Rico utilizing nearly 30 balloons. The service is powered by two helium balloons hovering 18 kilometers (11 miles) above land. Working with AT&T, Project Loon is now supporting basic communication and internet activities, like sending text messages and accessing information online for some people with LTE enabled phones.

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Right now, giant balloons above Puerto Rico are providing internet and cell service. The firm has a few balloons in the region and more are in progress, Libby Leahy, the spokeswoman, claimed.

Puerto Rican officials indicated that although almost two-thirds of total telecom service was restored as of Tuesday, only 32 percent of cell sites and 56 percent of cell towers were back online more than one month after Hurricane Maria struck the island. As of last week, 68% of cell sites stayed out of service, claimed the FCC to the media in an interview.

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This isn't the first time Project Loon has been used in a real-world emergency environment, however it is the first time that the team have been able to test out their new machine-learning algorithm for navigating the balloons to their destination. It claimed in an FCC filing that it was operating to support operators since they restored restricted communications ability in Puerto Rico. The balloons sail on wind in the stratosphere, extending beyond the reach of telecommunication partner's networks into areas that are now unconnected.

If all goes well, the company plans to send an additional 28 balloons, enough to bring back wireless service to not just the residents of Puerto Rico, but also, the nearby US Virgin Islands that was also impacted by the storms. Alphabet claimed that it will carry on the project as long as it can helpfully do so.

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